By Maureen Swanson, Learning Disabilities Association of America
Come January, for the first time in our country’s history, women will comprise 20% of the U.S. Senate. This past fall, Americans elected five new female Senators, from Hawaii, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Nebraska. They join 15 female incumbents, so we’ll ring in 2013 with 20 women in the Senate. I wish it were 50% but let’s celebrate the upward trend!
What does this historic shift mean for the Safe Chemicals Act? I hope that it will mean the difference between Congress acting now to pass legislation to protect American families from toxic chemicals, rather than further obstruction and delay.
I’m biased, but I think the women of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, can accomplish in 2013 what the men of the Senate have failed to do for nearly 40 years. They can help tip the scales and fix the broken and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act, which presumes chemicals are safe, fails to require testing of chemicals for potential threats to health, and allows even the worst chemicals – those known to cause cancer and problems with brain development – to remain on the market.
The Safe Chemicals Act, introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, would update our weak laws by requiring all chemicals to be assessed against a safety standard set to protect public health, especially for the developing fetus and children. The Act would give a “green light” to the many good and safe chemicals on the market, while stopping the use of chemicals that put human health at risk.
Sen. Barb Mikulski recently stated that the women of the Senate “work on macro issues and macaroni and cheese issues.” Enacting stronger regulation of toxic chemicals is both. The Safe Chemicals Act is a long overdue public health statute that would reduce risk factors for disease and disability for every single child born in this country. It also would help to reduce health care costs as well as education costs and losses due to lost work time.
It’s a mac ‘n cheese issue too – one that regular moms like me worry about every day, as we struggle to find safer choices for our kids despite a dearth of information on chemicals in products. Often there is no safe choice at all. While a pregnant woman can move away from someone smoking a cigarette, she can’t escape the flame retardant chemicals in her couch, which can cause cancer and hinder brain development.
This fall, more than 40 health organizations representing people struggling with breast and lung cancers, autism and learning disabilities, infertility and endometriosis, sent a letter to the women in the Senate urging them to work together to pass the Safe Chemicals Act.
Those receiving the letter included Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and newly elected Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). I’d like to see these four independent-thinking, smart and savvy women from New England help bring the Safe Chemicals Act across the finish line. Or perhaps Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who is keenly attuned to the toxic chemicals found at higher levels in native Alaskan communities, will champion this critical public health measure.
Whether it’s fair or not, I expect more from the fifth of the Senate with whom I share a gender. Let’s call on the women of the Senate, all 20, to start the new year by joining forces to pass the Safe Chemicals Act and provide American families with long-overdue protection from toxic chemicals.
I am hopeful that the women coming into the Senate will take the lead on this issue -- I am confident that newly elected Baldwin/Warren will be great but hope the existing female Senators will step up!!!Posted by: Fran | Dec 10, 2012 11:49:38 AM
This is a terrific post. I agree that we should all reach out to the women of the Senate. How could they not agree? Many of them have been moms or grandmoms. I think that fact alone puts a person more in touch with absolute need for regulation of toxic chemicals in the air we breath, the food we eat, the water we drink.Posted by: Alexandra | Dec 10, 2012 10:37:16 AM